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Published by glennpease

Lord Bishop of Rochester

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water
and bitter — James iii. ex.

Lord Bishop of Rochester

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water
and bitter — James iii. ex.

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Published by: glennpease on Jun 14, 2013
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ICOSISTECYBY ATHOY W. THOROLD, D.D.Lord Bishop of RochesterDoth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet waterand bitter — James iii. ex.'"PHE opportunity that is seldom prized, thefaculty that should be sedulously cultivated,the talent, for which there is an untold responsi-bility, the gift, which, at its best, is born with us,and owes so much to practice and observation andearnestness of spirit, is that of conversation.250 QUESTIOS OF FAITH AD DUTYConversa- Our Lord, in anticipation of the final judgment,tells us that by our words we shall be justified,and by our words we shall be condemned. St.Paul, in his practical way, while he cautions usagainst the commonplaces of a speech which isto be seasoned with salt, recognises it as an im-portant instrument for defending and expoundingthe faith. " That ye may know how to answerevery man." St. James lays stress on the powerof the tongue, for harm as well as for good, andimpresses on us that the most grievous andunnatural of all inconsistencies is a Christianmisuse of speech. The subject is large enoughfor a big volume to itself. Let me now simplytry to show what infirmities in the exercise of this great talent mar our own character, act asstumbling-blocks to others, and grieve the spiritof Christ.First of all — and this remark holds good of course of all people, and not only of those whodesire and profess to live as disciples of Christ — the familiar topics of ordinary conversation,even when not directly harmful, are sadly lackingin dignity and interest and value. What most
people like to talk about is each other ; but thisis exactly the topic that is so full of peril and soempty of good. If we talked of things insteadof persons and pleasantly discussed daily events,art and books, and especially politics, whichneed not be fought over in a bitter and contro-versial spirit, but which ought to be full of >/.( RET FAULTS 251interest to those who love their country, in theplace of clothes and entertainments and novels,our daily life would be education instead of dis-sipation ; and we should insensibly acquire whatLord Beaconsfield described as the highest wisdomin the best way — not from books, but from thelips of men. I know that we don't want pedantsor coxcombs, to air their own accomplishmentsat our expense ; or intellectual prigs, who liket<> dwarf others by exalting themselves. Butconversation is becoming a lost art. It is verymuch to be doubted if there is to be found any-where in Europe, except in a handful of choicehouses in the great capitals, anything to approachthe salons of Paris in the latter half of theeighteenth century for graceful badinage, accurateerudition, or grand courtesy. A good talker,whose sayings we write down in our journalswhen we get home, is a rare possession. Whyarc not there more ?Fellowship with brother Christians on thegreat blessed realities which we hold and love incommon, if wisely arranged and safeguardedwith wise restrictions, may become a real meansof grace. It may mean a handful of friendsmeeting together over their Bibles, in hope of also meeting their Lord. It may also be con-fined to the intercourse of two individual souls.It is not to be forced ; and if artificial and self-displaying, it becomes hurtful, and when unrealacts like a moral poison. It is more than doubtful
252 QUESTIOS OF FAITH AD DUTYif we use it as much as we ought to use it.At such moments which bring into the horizonof our own experience the walk to Emmaus, athird sometimes joins us ; and though presentlyHe disappears, the recollection beatifies ourlife.Conversation in mixed society is by no meansan easy art, if we would do a little good,without doing much more harm. As a rule itshould be in the first instance indirectly helpful,aiming at raising the tone of the general talk,and waiting for an opportunity to attract noticeto some event or person which leads to importantinferences. Expressions of an unctuous or highlyspiritual character are best avoided. They raiseprejudice, stir disdain, and even provoke alarm.Religious phraseology has sometimes a hollowring about it ; and if we want men to listen tous, it must be by persuasion, not rebuke. It hasmore than once been observed that when someprofane expression or jest of dubious taste hasbeen uttered before one whose character or pro-fession must make such allusions intensely pain-ful, quite the best way of rebuking, and alsopreventing it hereafter, is silence. There is agreat power in silence, and, be it added, a realcourage also ; and it conveys its message morerapidly and more permanently than words.The infirmities to be shunned in our dailytalk, the dead flies in the apothecary's ointment,are on the surface. We all know them. Loqua-SECRE1 FAULTS 153city has great danger with it and an inevitableloss of influence. We remember what the wiseman says about the multitude of words. Fewthings arc more irritating or fatiguing when weare compelled to listen to them. It is true thatfor a considerable portion of civilised societywhat may be not disrespectfully described as

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